Thursday 31 January 2008

Wendibles, Wendibles, did you give the money back?

Remember the small one returned a donation made by a fellow by the name of Paul Green because he lives outwith the UK and it was an illegal donation?

Well, we all know about the section 56 breach, about how it is a strict liability offence (mens rea not required - ignore Sweet v Parsley it's not applicable in this case, but there is a line in decision of the Privy Council in Gammon (HK) Ltd. v. AG of HK that presumption of mens rea stands

"unless it can be shown that the creation of strict liability will be effective to promote the objects of the statute by encouraging greater vigilance to prevent the commission of the prohibited act."
and section 56 does not have a defence attached to it- thanking m'learned friend) and how the offence is failure to return an impermissible donation.

So anyway, I don't want to talk about that, what I want to talk about is the returned donation. Her Imperial Wendyness assures us all that she has returned the donation (well, actually, and very bizarrely, she sent it to the Electoral Commission instead of back to Paul Green, but I'm assuming that no-one at the Commission hipped it).

The donation was sent back but where's the record? The Commission is obliged to enter such things in the register as soon as is practicable and, indeed, they do. In the register is a drop-down menu for "type of donation" under which you can find "impermissible donor" and you'll see the donations which have been returned. The latest to a regulated donee was in November when Andrew Mitchell MP returned £4,000. Where the money can't be returned it's forfeited to the Electoral Commission - the latest one of those was a party one where the Lib Dems gave up £40k on the 21st of December.

Wee problem - that returned donation isn't listed on the register.

So, here's the question - does Wendy still have that £950 and therefore still in breach of the law or is she telling us that the Electoral Commission has failed to observe the law of which it is guardian?

Have you given the money back Wendy?
Register of donations
69.—(1) The Commission shall maintain a register of all donations reported to them under this Chapter.
(2) The register shall be maintained by the Commission in such form as they may determine and shall contain the following details in the case of each such donation—
(a) the amount or value of the donation;
(b) (subject to subsection (4)) such other details as have been given in relation to the donation in pursuance of paragraph 2, 3, 6 or 7(a) or (c) of Schedule 6; and
(c) the relevant date for the donation within the meaning of paragraph 5 of that Schedule, and (in the case of a donation falling within sub-paragraph (2) of that paragraph) the details given in pursuance of that sub-paragraph.
(3) In the case of any donations reported to them under section 68, the register shall (subject to subsection (4)) contain the details given in pursuance of subsection (2) of that section.
(4) The details required by virtue of subsection (2) or (3) do not include, in the case of any donation by an individual, the donor’s address.
(5) Where any donation or donations is or are reported to the Commission under this Chapter, they shall cause the details mentioned in subsection (2) or (3) to be entered in the register in respect of the donation or donations as soon as is reasonably practicable.

Schedule 7
Part V
Register of donations
Register of recordable donations
15.—(1) Section 69 shall apply in relation to donations reported to the Commission under this Schedule (“relevant donations”) as it applies to donations reported to them under Chapter III of Part IV of this Act.
(2) But in its application in accordance with sub-paragraph (1), section 69 shall have effect with the modifications set out in sub-paragraph (3).
(3) Those modifications are as follows—
(a) subsection (2) shall have effect in relation to a relevant donation as if (instead of requiring the register to contain the details mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (c) of that subsection) it required the register to contain such details as have been given in relation to the donation in pursuance of paragraph 10(3), 10(4), 11(2), 11(3) or 11(4); and
(b) subsection (3) shall be read as referring to paragraph 14 and subparagraph (2) of that paragraph instead of to section 68 and subsection (2) of that section.

Wednesday 30 January 2008

Relaunch a burning ship

I see they're relaunching Wendy Alexander - that champagne has got to hurt. Four months into her leadership (which was a new dawn) she needs a wee rebranding.

My advice to her would be "Give it up for your own sake and the sake of your party. You're doing no-one any good."

On the brighter side, I was reminded today that Helen Eadie is a conviction politician - Labour and conviction go so well together - and that she shares a bit of constituency with Gordie le Broon. She must have leadership qualities.

It's interesting that the Social Attitudes Survey shows that Scots have more confidence in their Parliament and Government since the SNP took power - an indication that they were wanting a Government who spoke for Scotland perhaps?

Tuesday 29 January 2008

SNP leading again ...

I am delighted to be able to report that the SNP in Edinburgh North & Leith has more members than the Labour Party has in Gordon Brown's constituency of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath. Given that the SNP organises on Scottish Parliament boundaries and Labour organises on Westminster constituencies (which are larger), it's obvious that the SNP is far better looking than the Labour Party.

So, have you heard of the Scottish Industry Forum? Hmmm?

Monday 28 January 2008

What a delightful, proactive and excellent Government

I've been looking at how well our Government has been doing. You can read all about it on the Government website. How marvellous is your SNP Government these days?

Well, today it announced:

A crack-down on organised crime - why did Labour never do this in all the time they were in power?

£10 million immediate investment and a look at changing their funding - ending ring-fencing, freeing up universities to get on with their core tasks of teaching and research and freeing them up from form-filling, box-ticking and reporting to politicians.

An end to driving civil servants out of the capital - in future there will only be relocations where there are wider benefits for the taxpayer and no compulsory redundancies - that should end the waste we saw with things like moving Scottish Natural Heritage.

The interim report of the Broadcasting Commission - the first ever look at the state of broadcasting in Scotland and how it can be improved.

Promoting Scottish culture in Europe - supporting our artists and writers, selling Scotland to a European audience.

Engaging producers in the debate on food - making sure that our producers are taking part in the discussion so they'll be part of the way forward.

Something on community right to buy - I don't know much about CRTB, but I can tell you that it seems to be working fine and diddly on Gigha - a wonderful place you should try to visit.

Plans to save £2million a year (plus the planet) on Government publications - too many glossy and over-produced documents came out of government in Scotland in the last decade, it's time for some sense to prevail.

A clampdown on fraud in the NHS - stop the fraud and the theft and be able to treat more people while making sure that honest members of staff get the benefit too.

Not a bad day's work, I think.

Sunday 27 January 2008

And they're off ...

Andy Kerr made his bid for Labour leader this weekend (bit hamfisted, but what else did you expect?) - he came haring out of the traps waving Duncan McNeil as a battle pennant. "Hah!" said Sir Andy (for it was he), "I've caught that dastardly Salmond in a trap of his own making and my honour shall be redoubled as I take the Holy Grail into my mailed fist - it's mine I tell you, mine!"

Unfortunately for Andy, he turned out to be more Quixote than Lancelot and was beating a heavy retreat by lunchtime Sunday. Was Tom McCabe sitting chuckling in his cupboard as rumoured? A dastardly and most scurrilous rumour has it that the famous Hamilton South bruiser with his own video on Youtube has what amounts to an array of envisioned voodoo dolls and takes great pleasure in realigning their expectations. I can't bring myself to believe it though.
The Gray Man, though, must have been getting nodding back and forward in his rocking chair, cigarette in one hand and a glass of Himalayan Goji Juice in the other, his favourite Val Doonican LP spinning on the gramophone as he says "Too impatient, grasshopper, one must learn to play a longer game" before adding more inscrutability cream.

The happy whistling you hear from down by the burn is the escaping Jack McConnell - he's off playing Jim, he just needs to find Huck Finn (oh, read the book and stop jumping to conclusions - they'll finish you). Bet Labour members never thought a mere six months ago they'd be missing Jack come January (except those who can never aim well), eh? They all thought they were off on a six-week refresher course and they'd pop back into government.
Except one auld fella I met while out canvassing. He's not voting for me (not yet), and he'll probably 'give Labour one last chance, son'. He was a member of the Labour party until he let his membership lapse and no-one came round to ask why - in last year's election he voted Labour in the constituency vote, voted to get rid of the sitting Labour councillor in the council vote (good understanding of STV - we didn't get his first vote, but neither did Labour), and he voted for the SNP in the regional vote "In spite of Alex Salmond" because he thought Labour couldn't get anyone on the Lothian list (neither did Foulkes, right enough), and we were closest to what he actually believes in. Anyway, the point of this rambling is that he was pointing out that the Labour party just does not know what it's about in Scotland.

His reasoning was that those who are forming a coalition of the convenient to support more powers for the Scottish Parliament really wouldn't be any more successful at doing that than they were at holding off change altogether because "they still don't understand, son, that you lot actually believe in Independence". He reckoned that the fact they had given up all belief in anything other than themselves and only wanted power for the sake of being in power meant that they had no chance of delivering anything - they didn't know what they wanted to deliver. He used a tortured metaphor which seemed to suggest that they were at a tea-dance while we were committed warriors for a cause dear to our hearts.
Not exactly how I would describe it, but I know what he means.

So what Labour needs isn't a refresher course or a while on the sidelines licking the wounds of defeat, what's needed is a rediscovery of a cause. It might be a half-forgotten cause buried under the detritus of the glory years of Blair or a cause that some thought buried with Keir Hardie. It might be a cause born from the need to renew or a cause brought in by an outsider, but it must be a cause that Labour members believe in - imposing one would make the death throes of a once proud party all the more painful.

So, bearing in mind that it's more than a change of leadership, tactics and direction Labour needs, where can Labour members turn? They're a bit knackered, but I would suggest that they have either to look way back in their past or into their future for the answer - well, for the answer to the immediate question of where their next leader is coming from.

They have to stop looking to recent failures - no David Whitton, no Cathy Jamieson, no Andy Kerr, no Iain Gray. I know that there's a desire in some of the female Labour MSPs to ensure that the next leader is a woman to prove that Wendy's failure had nothing to do with her sex. Fair enough, but in the position Labour is in it must find the best leader possible no matter what genitalia they have. Fortunately for Labour women, their female MSPs are far better than their male MSPs as soon as you exclude Margaret Curran, Jackie Baillie, Rhona Brankin, Pat Ferguson and Johan Lamont.
Labour can look to the future with, for example, Claire Baker - she's young and can learn. On the other hand, she's not very good, she's a Fifer, she's never had a proper job - and she's married to Richard Baker (Labour MSP, not the broadcaster, not the composer and not the author), so her judgement is suspect.
With Labour's future looking pretty shaky, it's got to be a swing back in time, bring on the experience and let's sort the whole thing out. Altogether now:

She's Helen, Helen, Helen Eadie
Without her Labour's far too needy...

Alternatively (and this is a cracking wheeze if they can pull it off), the Co-op splits off and follows its own path, leaving Labour free to put the right-wing, free-market version of socialism it has dreamt up while the Co-op can act as its conscience, then there would be two Labour leaders in Parliament and not so much pressure on the one.

I should charge consultancy fees

Saturday 26 January 2008

Jumping the shark

In The Herald today, Labour is insisting that Wendy Alexander should stay on as leader even after she goes down:

Ms Baillie said Ms Alexander would "stay on and fight for her reputation" even if the Electoral Commission decides she has broken the law.

if the Electoral Commission judge that there has been intentional wrongdoing, by either Wendy or one of her campaign team, I would have thought she had even more reason to stay on and fight for her reputation.
Labour just jumped the shark.

Friday 25 January 2008


Yes, yes, yes, as has been pointed out, I made a complete mess of posting the link to Alyn Smith's blog - after hearing wee Geordie Foulkes on Newsnight last night complaining about the world conspiracy against Labour, I blame Wendy Alexander.

The link should have been

I notice he has a wee photie of the Manneken-Pis dressed in a kilt - I'll leave it to Alyn to explain that particular sartorial composition.

Thursday 24 January 2008

News reaches me from Alyn Smith MEP that things are not all well in Belgium.

The language barrier seems to have grown:

European blogging is now live with Mr Smith @

Monday 21 January 2008

John McTernan

Enough is being said elsewhere about John McTernan's stereotyping of Scots.

I just couldn't believe his CV:

Currently a Special Adviser to Des Browne
Formerly aide to Tony Blair and questioned in the cash-for-honours probe
In charge of Labour's 2007 election where they lost power in Scotland for the first time in 50 years
Consultant to the Arts Council for three months
Special Adviser to Henry McLeish
Adviser to Harriet Harman.

John McTernan is a jinx!

Saturday 19 January 2008

Who's playing and who's paying?

Now then, now then, now then ...

When the SNP won the election, Labour thought of a crafty wheeze to clip our wings. That's how the idea to strip money out of the running of Parliament to pay for yet another commission to look at more powers for Parliament came about.

Daft, of course, when they could have just joined the National Conversation like everyone else, but there you go.

Then, not content with having a wee commission, Wendy and her chums shouted for big brother in London to give them a hand and they had a wee jolly in the Scotland Office in Edinburgh.

That’s how the Conservatives and the Lib Dems were engaged – all together for a wee call for a commission, and tea and hob-nobs.

After that great larks and excitement, what more could they ask for?

A trip to London! Whoo on the Hoo scale!

Off they pop – Wendy A, Nicol S, and Annabel G – for a wee bit entertainment down south where they are met by the real heavy hitters. Lumbering in from the right is Des Browne, undefeated heavyweight champion of his own imagination, titled Secretary of State for Scotland, clambering down the Chimney is Alistair Carmichael, performing magic trips making pies disappear, and loafering in behind them all is that true political giant David Mundell.

What a six-pack they made together. I do hope that the MSPs paid for their own travel and accommodation – it would be a terribly poor show if they expected us to pay for their party politics. Anyway, the thing is, as soon as their backs were turned, up pops Gordon Brown with a cunning plan – he established his own commission (well, a Cabinet Committee) to consider the issue. Who’s on that? Well, it’s interesting because it’s all Labour Ministers and Secretaries – in London:

Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Chair) - Jack Straw
Chancellor of the Exchequer - Alistair Darling
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – David Milliband
Secretary of State for the Home Department - Jacqui Smith
Secretary of State for Defence; and Secretary of State for Scotland - Des Browne
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - Hilary Benn
Leader of the House of Commons (and Lord Privy Seal); and Minister for Women and Equalities - Harriet Harman
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions; and Secretary of State for Wales - Peter ain
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government - Hazel Blears
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury and Chief Whip - Geoff Hoon
Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families - Ed Balls
Minister for the Cabinet Office; and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster - Ed Miliband
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland – Shaun Woodward
Leader of the House of Lords (and Lord President of the Council) - Baroness Ashton of Upholland
Lords Chief Whip and Captain of the Gentlemen at Arms - Lord Grocott
Attorney General - Baroness Scotland
Advocate General for Scotland - Lord Davidson
Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Michael Wills MP)

How’s about them apples? All the time that the Conservatives and Lib Dems thought they were part of the great Brown stuff he was preparing to do them in.

With friends like him who needs enemas?

Friday 18 January 2008

Helen a handcart

I received a communique from my mole last night, it began like this:

"The seagulls are flying low tonight"
"The geese are on the island"
"Zis ees very interesting"
"Why are you speaking in a funny voice?"
Anyway, the dialogue was lengthy but the upshot was this - Holyrood TV where you can watch the proceedings of Parliament online as they happen and where you can choose from an excellent archive has become required viewing in London, and not just among Scots.

I'm told that it began when under-heid bummers working on the instructions of heid bummer Broon began watching to see what they could do to help and their stories of horror spread so that now there is a bit of a fan club down there for Holyrood with Labour party workers watching events (especially FMQs). Some of them are watching so they can offer advice while others are watching for their own pleasure and research - as it were.

The general opinion seems to be "Who'd have thought that the captain of this Titanic would steer towards the icebergs?" (I'm paraphrasing, of course) and one chap with an interest in what goes on in Scotland putting forward the considered theory that "she's worse than Michael Foot".
With the mutterings of discontent throughout the Labour group at Holyrood and the threat of John McTernan getting sent north again, Labour in Scotland have started singing a new song:

I know the very hero! Step forward Helen Eadie!

This woman has all the qualifications - she was even on James Callaghan's general election campaign team - and look how well that went. Eadie to leadie I say!

NB - a wee thank you to NB for the use of the terrible pun as a title - NB used hand basket but I prefer a hand cart - much faster

Thursday 17 January 2008

Such excitement

I can hardly contain myself, I stayed up all night reading the report, did you?
What do you mean "What Report?" The report, the tome, the epoch-breaker, the Finance Committee's on the Scottish Budget, of course.

What larks, what excitements and what wonderfulness abounds! An absolutely spiffing and spot-on budget says the Finance Committee. Other fascinating information is what Labour wanted to cut from the Budget (Annexe A):

£20 million from the Roads Improvements Budget
£60 million from the Capital Works Budget
£10 million from Routine and Winter Maintenance
£10 million from Police Support Services
£5 million from Police Information and Communications
£75 million from Water Support for Borrowing (this fund is for improving water supplies)
£12.5 million from the Health Information Budget
£20 million from the former Efficiency and Reform Fund (that's right - a fund that no longer exists, but they want £20 million out of it)
£33 million from the Local Government Resource Grants

That's £245.5 million in cuts Labour wanted to make.
In addition, they wanted to cut the Mental Health Fund, the Violence Against Women Fund, the Children’s Services – Women’s Aid Fund, the Supporting People Fund and the Homelessness Task Force Fund from councils and to take the Strategic Waste Fund and Flood Prevention and Coast Protection Grant away from councils.
It's now official that Labour MSPs are as daft as Edinburgh's Labour councillors who thought they should sell off the buildings the council owned to make up for the big hole in Edinburgh's revenue budget left by the Labour council when they got turfed out of office in May.

I can exclusively reveal that Labour politicians are daft!

That's not all folks! Labour and Lib Dem MPs and most Conservative MPs voted in the London Parliament to rob more than £1 billion from the Lottery money that normally gets distributed to good causes. Scotland's share of that £1 billion plus would have been around £184 million.

Just to be clear about this, this is the kind of project that the Big Lottery Fund has financed recently in Scotland, the kind of project whose funding has just been stolen to pay for London's Olympics:

1. Harmony - bringing some cheer to lonely pensioners in the Borders
2. Gorbals Recycles - a scheme to provide employment, training and volunteering in the Gorbals
3. ENABLE Scotland - helping young people with learning disabilities in Angus
4. Moray Carers Project - to bring some succour and support to carers in Moray
5. Greyfriars Community Project - there to support " 500 of the most marginalised and vulnerable people in Edinburgh"
6. Fife Survivors and Users Forum TODAY - supports people with mental health problems
7. The Myatt Project - provides support to people with a disability in Glasgow
8. Getting Better Together - to help young people with social disadvantages, including poverty.
9. Parkinson's Self Help Group - to support people suffering Parkinson's disease
10. Melville Housing Association Limited - helping homeless people
These are the kind of projects which will lose out thanks to London Labour Ministers deciding to rob the lottery for the London Olympics, and they were supported by Labour's Scottish MPs, including:

Mark Lazarowicz; Alistair Darling; Douglas Alexander; Nigel Griffiths; Des Browne; and Jim Devine as well as Lib Dems like John Barrett; Willie Rennie; and Alistair Carmichael.

To think that Wendy Alexander had the cheek to say that Labour stood up for the poor, the weak and the dispossessed. I hope they are all hanging their heads in shame.

Tuesday 15 January 2008

Ach no!

Just when there's an opinion poll that makes you think that we might have a wee contest to get excited about (see some soft soap), another one comes along (from the Daily Express) to make you think that it's not going to be such fun:

Scottish Constituency Vote
SNP 38
Labour 29
Conservative 14
Dem 14
Other 6

Scottish Regional Vote
SNP 30
Labour 27
Conservative 13
Dem 12
Other 18

Ach come on, Labour, Scotland needs a decent opposition. It's time to stop the scaremongering, lay out your vision for Scotland and get on with politics.

Might I suggest you start by replacing your leaders - Helen Eadie is waiting, Duncan McNeil is in the wings, Irene Oldfather is straining at the leash, and Karen Whitefield is ready to rumble. It's time to take drastic action and restore some pride in your party (but make them pay for their own leadership campaigns).

This helpful advice is provided free of charge by your friendly SNP.

Monday 14 January 2008

Electoral Commission not very good shock

OK, in a previous post I questioned the ability of the Electoral Commission to act within the Scottish judicial system.

That sparked a debate, and I am grateful to the resident legal genius for his illumination of the case as follows (my comments in italics):

*throat clearing in Rumpole of Bailey manner*

Paragraph 7.7 of the Commission document "Managing the Scottish Parliamentary and local government elections: guidance for Returning Officers":
"there are a number of non-electoral offences that may also be relevant in the election context. Such examples include:
- making a false statement (Perjury Act 1911)
- forgery and using a false instrument (Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981)"

Section 18 of the Perjury Act 1911 says "This Act shall not extent to Scotland or Ireland
Section 31 of the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 provides that only the counterfeiting provisions apply to Scotland and not the forgery provisions.
See, what you have here is the imperialist attitude of England-based regulatory bodies whose opinion is that the whole world surely must follow the same rules as they do. They give no consideration to the different legal system operating in Scotland. Spycatcher springs to mind.

10 other legal errors made by the Electoral Commission:
1. Same document, para 5.20 and 5.21 - misses the three judges from the Court of Session sitting as the Registration Appeal Court also responsible for hearing appeals from the Sheriff Court in relation to the registration of electors.
2. Same document quotes wrong procedure for Election Petitions.
3. "Placemat" in relation to Scottish Parliament elections says should reject if identity of the voter "could be identified". Test under the rules is "can be identified"
4. Similarly with the "Placemat" for Local Government elections.
5. Booklet for Adjudication of Doubtful ballots also gets this wrong.
6. Guidance for Scottish Parliament elections: candidates and agents wrongly refers to the (English) Elections Petitions Rules rather than the Rules of the Court of Session
7. Local Government elections guidance wrongly refers to the (English) Elections Petitions Rules rather than the Sheriff Court Rules.
8. Guidance for Scottish Parliament elections gets the procedure for Election Petitions wrong.
9. Erratum to this guidance still gets it wrong.
10. Guidance for Local Government elections also gets the procedure for Election Petitions wrong.

Sunday 13 January 2008

I am becoming Victor Meldrew ...

Over and over again I find myself saying "I don't believe it".

I was amazed by the lack of self-awareness shown by Margaret Curran when she said
has indulged in the most blatant exercise of cynical politics that I have ever witnessed
and she wasn't talking about herself!
I choked on my coffee when Hain said something like
Anyone who knows me knows that I am honest
anyone who has to say that has a reputation problem, methinks.

I laughed a little when Ewan Aitken blogged:

Princes Street. This iconic Edinburgh Street, home not just of shopping but the Gardens, Hogmanay and much more needs a radical face lift but that will take vision, leadership and political will. It also needs real and deep consultation with all of Edinburgh. I and my colleagues have begun to formulate some ideas about what we think might be possible which we will expand on soon
this from the party responsible for the mess that Edinburgh is in today - reserves squandered, staff morale at rock bottom, and the city's assets devalued by decades of mismanagement. Now they're talking about consulting the people in Scotland's capital on a vague plan to restore one street which is about to be scarred by trams. Perhaps if Labour had listened to the voices that were being raised even without formal consultation while they in power in Edinburgh the city wouldn't be in such a mess.

The hob-nob, the chocolate digestive and the Jaffa Cake are all taken by Scotland's smallest wind-farm though. Wendy Alexander on The Politics Show today the transcript isn't up yet, so you'll have to trust me -

the poor, the weak, the dispossessed being left behind.

You would have thought that ten years of Labour government would have sorted that out, eh? Apparently not - and she thinks that's the fault of the new SNP government.

All political parties have had difficulties
she was referring to her 'funding difficulties' and alleging that all political parties have had difficulties this year. Simply not true. It's Labour, buried up to the eyebrows in manure of their own making, their contempt for the law and common decency allied to their lack of distinction between right and wrong indicates a political sociopathy not present in any other party. It's clear from the sheer number of revelations about Labour members that the corruption is systemic within that party.

the big issue is for me to be in Parliament
love the vanity, but it's not quite true, is it? Wendy Alexander is neither indispensable nor one of the great politicians of her generation. She could be replaced easily - I recommend Helen Eadie.

I am confident I will be exonerated of any wrongdoing
That's simply a bizarre statement from a woman who has already admitted to breaking the law. For the sake of Scotland and of Scottish politics, I hope that the wrongdoers are not exonerated.

The moment I was aware a mistake was made I handed it to the Electoral Commission
That's not true either, the Electoral Commission came asking when it was flagged up to them.

I was responsible of no wrongdoing
I forgive her poor command of the language - I'm very forgiving - but this is the "big boy did it and ran away" defence. For the sake of all that is good and righteous - having someone this poor leading the major opposition party in Parliament is embarrassing for Scotland. She has to go.

Just in case anyone is thinking that the paucity of ability on her part only applies to her getting caught breaking the law, she also released an opinion today that the Scottish Government is giving away too much power to councils

"I have no doubt that Labour councillors, indeed Labour councils, have spent their life looking after the homeless, women's aid, all of these poor, weak, vulnerable groups that we came into politics for," she said.
"But I frankly can't have the same confidence that a Conservative-controlled council, or perhaps even an SNP-controlled council or an independent council will, for example, meet our obligation to women suffering domestic violence."
Sneeringly condescending to be sure, a complete lack of grace and a petty tribalism. Far, far worse, though, is the blinkered view of Scotland that implies that the statist solution is always the best because people can't take care of themselves. With opinions like that holding us back for 50 years it's little wonder that Scotland has been struggling economically and socially.

Thank goodness for an SNP Government.

Accidental Criminals

Peter Hain MP has joined the ranks of Labour politicians who broke the law but "didn't mean it, guv", and I can see why - I often overlook the odd hundred grand in my bank account and I'm sure you do too.

That's how we can be sure that Wendy Alexander never did anything wrong - in spite of the latest revelations that she and her team knew she was breaking the law and invented a cover story to try to save her.

We await the ponderous opinion of the Electoral Commission. In the meantime, the police have said that they will not begin their investigation until the Electoral Commission has completed theirs.

A swift consideration of the facts with my unbiased and completely unjaundiced eye leads me to some fascinating conclusions:

1. Wendy Alexander and her team broke the law and have admitted as much.
2. They acted in concert throughout, so all are equally at fault.
3. It is claimed that the criminal acts were not intentional - making them accidental criminals.
4. They sought to cover up a crime and mislead investigators. That would be attempting to pervert the course of justice, wouldn't it?

Having discoursed with some fine legal minds over the past few days, I'm drawn to ask some other questions -

1. Can the constabulary decide to defer an investigation and wait upon another body's deliberations before they begin? It is the duty of a police officer to investigate crime and bring the criminals to justice "with all due speed". I appreciate that the police are in a difficult position, electoral law not being something which they have to deal with in the normal course of their duties, their understandable reluctance to enter the political sphere, and a desire to avoid cutting across another investigation. Having had the crime reported to them, though, do they have a right to wait before investigating?

2. Surely the Electoral Commission should have held off on its own investigation until the police investigation had been completed? It has no powers to prosecute and cannot conduct criminal investigations. By continuing to fool around with the evidence that could be needed by the police for a criminal investigation it may be hampering that investigation, evidence could be corrupted or destroyed, witnesses will be reheating old evidence by the time the police are asking questions, and the Electoral Commission has no power to seize or compel evidence in the way the police do (computers to check the truth about emails, for example).

3. What other walk of life has a buffer like the Electoral Commission that would protect them from a police investigation? There have been crimes committed and the police should be investigating. Does the involvement of the Commission, then, amount to obstructing the police in the course of their duties.

4. Given that the Electoral Commission have made a mess of election guidance in Scotland in the past, are they really the organisation to be investigating anything? Doubly so given the atrocious record of the Electoral Commission in court cases.

5. Is it fair to drag the investigation out in this way? Surely the accused have the right to their day in court "with all due speed"?

6. Those who were conspiring to pervert the course of justice - the Electoral Commission has no power to bring them to book, surely it should get out of the way and let the police do their job? Bizarrely, during a conversation about that I discovered that that was the crime that Maxine Carr was convicted of.

7. When can we put this all away and get on with politics?

Saturday 12 January 2008

Helen Eadie, Helen Eadie, we'll support you evermore!

It can't carry on, Windy Alexander swaying back and forward and singing "Trust in me", it's sure that her time is up and Labour needs a new leader.

I say it again - there is no better candidate than Helen Eadie, the best MSP in the Labour group. Not only is she a visionary who wants rid of the Forth Bridge and the woman who can imagine Marie Antionette right across that river,

I say to Mr Swinney that the reason why I do not trust the SNP and the Liberal party in Fife is that my people cannot have their cake. The Government is saying of my people "Let them eat cake", but some of them cannot afford cake after the increases that they have faced in social work charges. Some of them might not be able to eat anything. Some people in Fife have seen their social work charges go from £273 a year up to nearly £8,000 a year. The Government tells them to eat cake, but they are some of the most frail, vulnerable and dependent people in our community. Under an SNP Government, that is what happens to support for the needs of people in our communities.
but she is also the woman who can mend the Labour party - who else could win a Fife constituency in spite of coming from Stenhousemuir? I tell you she is a missionary come to deliver Labour from the disaster they are marching into.

Not only that, she's one of the few who hasn't been tainted by association with the Lib/Lab pact that made a mess of Scotland for eight years. She stands in a class of her own to such an extent that she never felt the need to accept Ministerial office when Labour was in Government - she never even accepted convenorship of a Parliamentary Committee. A woman of honour whose dignity didn't allow her to get down and dirty with Jack McConnell and his exceedingly large cabinet.

There's even a campaign song to the tune of the Arnold Rimmer song from Red Dwarf:

If you're in trouble she will save the day
She's brave and he's fearless come what may
Without her Labour would go astray

She's Helen, Helen, Helen Eadie
Without her Labour is far too greedy
She's handsome, trim, and not too needy
She will never look too beady
She's Helen, Helen, Helen Eadie

Friday 11 January 2008

Helen Eadie for leader

I say again, Helen Eadie is the best Labour's got.

For evidence watch yesterday's Labour debate on the Spending Review - there are some fantastic speeches, but Helen Eadie's speech is in a class of its own.

Yesterday's proceedings are in the Film Archive which is linked here.

Fife's answer to JFK starts at about 01.48.15 (time's in the bottom right hand corner).

I tell you - she's different class!

I'm in need of a bad joke

How many Labour MSPs does it take to change a lightbulb?

Don't be stupid, Labour MSPs don't change anything!

Every one's a winner - here all week, try the fish ...

Thursday 10 January 2008

Clegging along in the blue ...

Nick Clegg MP - the new leader of the Lib Dems - thinks the Scottish Parliament should have more powers, not because it's right but because he thinks that that will stop the SNP advancing - I'm glad I'm in a party that bases its positions on the principles we believe in rather than on party political advantage.

Anyways, old Cleggie came to the wild north today and praised us wild Caledonians:

"Let's take the moves in Holyrood to protect private information from any ID card scheme and the way in which the Scottish Executive has used DNA databases in a much more selective way than they have south of the border. You have a kind of liberalism in Scotland which we should learn from in the rest of the country."

What rest of the country? I assume he means England and means liberal as in the political philosophy rather than his party which voted to have the DNA samples of innocent people retained by the police during the passage of the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice Act 2006?

Well, it can't be the Scottish Lib Dems he's praising for protecting civil liberties on DNA retention, so who can it be? You've guessed it - he's praising the SNP, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill who said in June 2007 when he was launching a review of DNA retention that blanket retention was unacceptable in the relationship between the citizen and state.

Good to know that the English Lib Dems support the sensible policies of the SNP - if they now persuade their Scottish pals to accept SNP policy then we can make Scotland a much better place much more quickly.

Tuesday 8 January 2008


Bet that got your attention - but it's epigenetics I want to lecture you on at length today. "Epigenetics" I hear you ask "what the devil is that?"

Well, you know you thought your genes were kinda fixed? (Nothing to do with Levi Strauss or any other semiotician - although his Structural Analysis in Linguistics and in Anthropology was very interesting, now pay attention and sit up at the back there that boy).

The impression a lot of people have of genetics is a wee mish combined with a wee mash encompassing something about a mink called Mendel, fruit flies and peas, nature or nurture, there's a double helix in there somewhere, and somebody has mapped the human genome. They might have a touch of Dolly the sheep (mind your manners), a panic about GM food and other Frankenstein stories, and a vague idea that you'll go bald because your great auntie Matilda did.
What most people 'know' to be the case, though, is that your genetic make-up is fixed and what you have in your store is what will be passed on to future generations (assuming you procreate - if you have no progeny you're unlikely to pass on your genes and sterility is seldom inherited).

Scientific fact - genes are unalterable. Of course, like most scientific facts, it's not a fact and no scientist claimed it to be so. It only represented what was commonly believed to be the case amongst the scientific community based on the level of ignorance at the time. It was a best-fit theory (or hypothesis - I'm not entirely sure whether genetic stability is a big enough idea to be a theory, maybe we should just define it as an explanation or something of that nature). It was generally understood that your genotype determined your phenotype and that's the way it was.

Anyway - it's maybe wrong.

Epigenetics is the idea (perhaps a hypothesis, maybe even verging on being a theory) that what you do in your life can affect your genes and thereby affect future generations. You can change your grandchildren's predisposition to disease and perhaps even what they look like by changing the way you live today - or something like that. There are better explanations on the BBC science website and on the website of the Epigenome Network of Excellence. It's absolutely fascinating and could have huge implications for public health policies.
We already know that improvements in public health take years to bear fruit (makes it a real bind for politicians in the health portfolio - decisions you take now won't express their full beneficial effect until after the next election), but this takes it a stage further.

Let's, for the sake of argument, say that we are all agreed that the Scottish Government and previous Scottish Executive health policies all have beneficial effects (I'm not persuaded by the excellence of the health policies of the previous administration, of course, but let's give it a whirl anyway). If they are all beneficial policies and epigenetics is correct, give them a couple of years to kick in and two generations to be born, and you should be seeing the full effects of the health policies in people who are coming into the world in about 2040.

Flippin Norah - as my grandfather used to say (wasn't his fault, he was a Yorkshireman)!

So why have I wandered away into a reverie down one of the wee lanes I like wandering down while picking interesting flowers? Well, it occurs to me that there is a remarkable cross-over between what is discovered about the hard-wiring of human behaviour and how groups tend to act in society, and it occurred to me that there might be a parallel in the actions of political parties as they go through the generations. This could explain some things.
For example, the SNP has gone through quite a few phases of development - the romantics of the 1920s, the conshies of the war years, the protesters of the post-war years, the party-builders of the late 50s and the 1960s, the pragmatists v idealists debates of the 1970s - which is also when the strategists and educators came into their own and the idea of building a more solid economic case took a high priority, the organisers of the 1980s, the polishers of the 1990s, a period of modernisation and reform under John Swinney, and the resultant rounded party of government you see today with all of those elements embedded in its collective psyche.

So what of the Labour party? Well, I've been reading a terribly interesting book (as is my wont) by Hilary Wainwright titled Labour: a tale of two parties. It deals with the battles and struggles within the Labour party in the 1980s (and to some extent the 1970s).

There were some enormous battles fought constituency by constituency between those who held to some ideal that was close to the principles upon which the Labour party was founded and those who just wanted to be in power and weren't spliced to the principles of yore. There were also some side battles fought with obvious chancers who were just riding the wagon for their own enrichment.
That time of great discord in the Labour party brought all of the bitterness and rancour which internal battles always bring, and it encouraged Labour members to do exactly what always happens in war - whatever is needed to achieve your ends. It created a culture within Labour that meant that Labour members never questioned those who were in the same band as they were, never doubted the intent of their colleagues in that trench and never trusted anyone from another wing of their own party.

That tribalism and factionalism ran rampant and out of control right into the 1990s, spurting to the surface every so often and marked with marvellous scenes like Kinnock's battles with Militant. All sides lost in that internal warfare, but Kinnock and his modernisers appeared to have lost less badly than the rest. It didn't do Kinnock's career any good, but it did pave the way for a new generation of Labour with Blair, Brown and the 'free will lockdown' where 'discipline' became the mantra and power the goal, where principles could be abandoned wantonly and cherished clauses of the constitution of the Labour party could be evicted from their warm and caring homes by cruel and thoughtless power-seekers.

The generation that forgot about society and collective action and turned in on itself in fratricide and sororicide, the cohort whose belief in improving the lot of the people was foregone in favour of serving themselves, is the grandparent of the current Labour party (still in its birthing pains, of course).

That would explain, to some extent at least, the current bizarre attitudes of Labour politicians and their failure to address the issues at hand. Epigenetics applied to an organisation would help explain why the Labour party has now become a faction writ large; how it cannot accept that someone from another party might have an opinion that is worth listening to; how it believes that no-one within the clique can do any wrong; how it believes that politicians with, at best, average ability are in some way political geniuses; how it believes it should be allowed to do whatever it wants to increase its standing; and how it will continue to snarl at anyone who approaches.
It's quite sad really. Just as well Scotland has the SNP isn't it?

Monday 7 January 2008

OK then, since you asked...

I was surprised that so many of you were asking about the legal position with dodgy donations, the Electoral Commission and PPERA. I wonder what you lot did at law school!

I would credit a legal genius of my ken with the groundwork here, but he's a secret legal genius and only appears when we shine the shark symbol onto the clouds...
There was speculation in the papers at the weekend that the Electoral Commission will say that because they have let others off they will let Wendy off as well - a kind of buy one whitewash, get another one free policy.

There's a problem with this, and it comes from the duty of the constabulary to act as constables.
Section 17 of the Police (Scotland) Act 1967 -

it shall be the duty of the constables of a police force
(b) where an offence has been committed (whether within or outwith the police area for which the police force is maintained) to take all such lawful measures, and make such reports to the appropriate prosecutor, as may be necessary for the purpose of bringing the offender with all due speed to justice;
That's a clear duty and burden upon Scottish police officers to investigate crimes and bring the criminals to justice. Since the actors in this Labour farce have admitted their criminality, a beginning has been made.

There is no scope for the Electoral Commission to get in the way of police officers doing their jobs, either. The individual constables can be directed by their chief constable who can in turn be directed by the appropriate prosecutor or by the Sheriff Principal:

(3) In directing the constables of a police force in the performance of their functions the appropriate chief constable shall comply with all lawful instructions (whether general or special) which he may receive—
(b) from the sheriff principal having jurisdiction in the place:
Provided that in relation to the investigation of offences the chief constable shall comply with such lawful instructions as he may receive from the appropriate prosecutor.
In this subsection sheriff principal does not include a sheriff.
No Electoral Commission mentioned. I understand and fully support the position taken by the Chief Constables of Strathclyde and Lothian & Borders not to begin an investigation until the Electoral Commission has finished theirs - no point in them falling over each other - but there is nothing which would allow the Electoral Commission to tell police officers what to do nor, indeed, allow the constables to fail to investigate the crime and bring the offenders speedily to justice.

The previous performance of the Electoral Commission has no relevance here, nor would it be reflected in the decision of the Procurator Fiscal about whether or not to prosecute. In fact, there was a case a while back where it was shown that the practices of the Procurator Fiscal cannot be held to be held to be a predictive measure of what should be expected of the Fiscal's future decisions.

If my memory serves me right (and if the secret legal genius has not yet lost his memory), then those of you who take some interest in the game we know as fitba may recall a case where a celebrated bewhiskered QC defended a gentleman who had been known to pull on the colours of the QC's favourite soccer team and also the white of the nation to the south with the three one-eyed leopards on its shirt.

This fine, respected and upstanding king of the karaoke member of the legal profession sought a bit of leverage for his case and attempted to ascertain the extent to which the Procurator Fiscal had, in the past, sought a prosecution against a footballer for conduct on the field of play.

Alas and alack for the good Queen's Counsel, his rapier was blunted on the unforgiving wall of the Procurator Fiscal's right to decide which cases she or he brought to court without those decisions being used against him or her at a later date.

In other words, he got telt 'no'.
Of course, we may both be massively wrong, but that wouldn't be like either of us.

So there ye have it - if there's been a crime the constabulary have a duty to investigate, the Electoral Commission cannot require them not to, and the fact that the Electoral Commission were spineless in past cases in England will not be a defence to the charge in a court in Scotland.
Now here's your homework - if the Electoral Commission found evidence that a crime had been committed (something like someone saying "there's been a breach of the law) and did not report it to the police or tried to deter the police from investigating a crime which had been committed, would the Electoral Commission be guilty of a crime?

Answers should be written on the back of a fifty-guinea note and sent to me at the usual address.

Ach Wendy - stop it!

Spin doctor resigns because he can't work with her, another one goes because he couldn't be civil in public, one coming in made it clear who he thought were the real politicians in Scotland (and Wendy wasn't among them), another had the job and then never - gone before he got here, then there was her dodgy donors, obfuscation, misdirection, discombobulation, inarticulation, disingenuity, and Trappist vow of silence...

Now her election agent has joined the Matthew Marr club.

Stop it Wendy - it's not even funny anymore.

Well, maybe a wee bit.

Nick Clegg - A True Lib Dem

I've been terribly excited reading an interview with new Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.

I just wanted to share a quote with you:
"I became a liberal not in a library, but over the dinner table, in the car, in the park, in conversation with my mum,"

If anyone can throw some light on the meaning of this, I'll be awfy interested to hear it.

Sunday 6 January 2008

Labour admits SNP policies are right

In a rare moment of honesty, Labour's leader has admitted that the SNP is right to seek to abolish the Council Tax.

To be fair, it's Labour's leader on Edinburgh City Council, Ewan Aitken, who said
if the SNP deliver on actually getting rid of the Council Tax as opposed to just freezing it … then they will win the next election by a mile.

I take it we'll see him supporting the abolition of the Council Tax, now that we know he knows it's the right thing to do?

Friday 4 January 2008

Private Fraser - all doomed

Murdo Fraser MSP, Annabel Goldie's pet deputy in Parliament has decided to hand out to Alex Salmond MSP and MP, First Minister of this parish, a sound thrashing on the grounds that Private Fraser thinks Salmond doesn't vote often enough in the Parliament in London.

Leaving aside how little of an MP's job involves voting (see the public whip website - linked from this marvellous website), let's have a look at voting records in Westminster. Remembering that the SNP MPs do not vote on matters which do not impact on Scotland, Salmond's record since the 2005 General Election doesn't seem too bad:

134 votes out of 598, 22.4% - Alex Salmond SNP
158 votes out of 598, 26.4% - David Cameron - Conservative
259 votes out of 598, 43.3% - David Mundell - Conservative
100 votes out of 598, 16.7% - Gordon Brown - Labour

Should Cameron and Mundell resign with immediate effect?

Wednesday 2 January 2008

Runners and Riders

Labour's leadership election is now expected to start in early May, so let's have a look at the runners and riders - which are runners and which are riders you can decide for yourself:

Well, OK, non-runners first - Wendy Alexander and Jack McConnell are out, one injured and one retired.
Charlie Gordon - well, he's wounded and he's in trouble with the authorities, he'll be getting his collar felt at some point and it looks like his political career is over (which is a pity because he's one of the best in the Labour group and would have made a decent leader except for his casual disregard for the law, in common with many other Labour party representatives) - but he's a streetfighter and fairly smart, so don't write him off, Pat Lally may not be the only Lazarus in Glasgow Labour.

Steven Purcell - there has been some speculation that Purcell will be slotted in to take over as soon as the opportunity presents itself. Why would he? The salary he gets as leader of Glasgow Council isn't far behind the salary of an MSP; as leader of a large council he has the power and the opportunity to make a difference to people's lives fairly easily and very quickly; there's going to be years of pain in the Labour group in Parliament that you wouldn't choose to be part of unless you were a masochist; and the group of Labour MSPs is a snake pit of competing interests.

Jackie Baillie - has a *ahem* direct approach to politics and is used to defending the indefensible (she supports keeping nuclear weapons in Scotland, for example), so she'd fit in fine trying to defend Labour's incompetence in Parliament. Her difficulty is that she has been too closely associated with Alexander's failures; she was part of the "hokey-cokey" when Henry McLeish stepped down, and she's been the one fronting up the "unintentional criminality" defence. I'm not sure that can be shrugged off.

Iain Gray - was playing a good game of nudging Alexander aside and positioning himself to take over until the donor scandals swept him aside. He's invisible now and will have to make up some ground, but he will have the support of the London bunch, including Brown and Darling - whether that's an advantage or not we'll have to wait and see.
Tom McCabe - rumour has it that he still harbours ambitions of heading to London. He certainly doesn't seem interested in what is going on in Edinburgh, he's been invisible in Parliament since May, and he's associated with Alexander. I think he's out.

Margaret Curran - well, there seems to be a few people who think she's highly talented and then there's Robert McNeil (who has been known to frequent the scribes' benches of Parliament) who once warned that she could have your eye out with that teatowel. Strident voice, blinkered in debate, she's exactly what's wrong with Labour (which probably means she's got a fair chance of making it to the top) - then again, she's also highly combative and forceful and knows how to hold a line and that might stabilise the Labour ship a little, and she wasn't too involved in the Alexander saga.

Geordie Foulkes - a blustering leftover from the days of hegemony, I never thought I'd see someone disappointed to be elected, never mind distraught like Geordie was at Ingliston. He's mumphed around Parliament, can't get the hang of the modern procedures we use here, and looks like he'd rather be suffering corporal punishment than actually be there. Kezia Dugdale is his assistant and you'll notice that he was completely silent while she was seconded to Wendy Alexander - draw your own conclusions. I suspect we'll see him resign from Parliament around the first anniversary of his election.

Malcolm Chisholm - serial martyr, no spine, no political courage, nothing of substance to him. He blusters, whiffles and discombobulates himself frequently and regularly, he mistakes himself for someone competent every third Tuesday and puffs himself up with self-importance twice a month. Even Labour wouldn't be that daft.

Hangdog Hugh Henry - the most miserable man in Scottish politics, you'll never mistake him for a ray of sunshine. He is as inspirational as a fusty loaf at a romantic meal.
Cathy Jamieson - no leadership skills, little political ability, analytical skills of your average housebrick, it is to be hoped that she is good at serving her constituents.

There doesn't seem to be a lot of choice for Labour's fifth Scottish leader since 1999, but I can offer them some inspiration - Helen Eadie! No, no, hear me out.
Helen Eadie is a visionary - it was way back in February 2003 that Helen Eadie proposed demolishing the Forth Bridge. It was the rail bridge she wanted rid of, right enough, but she proved she wasn't afraid to tackle diffcult subjects and slay sacred cows, and she's got the arguments to back up her position:

"Clearly this bridge is virtually a national monument and a testament to the engineers and workers who built this splendid structure and it is without doubt one of the Great Wonders of the World.
"Perhaps it should be preserved in the same way that the other Great Wonders of the World have been preserved regardless of the cost.
"However, maybe too, people need to at the very least consider the unthinkable.
On top of that, her son-in-law is spinner for Labour in Parliament, so she has a support structure in place already.

You heard it here first - Helen Eadie to lead the Labour party!

Tuesday 1 January 2008

The perils, the perils

I have been chastised, perhaps even berated, by SNP activists over my previous post identifying the seats the SNP would win on an assumed straight swing on the scale shown in the recent polls. Why? Well, some of them were saying "wheesht, laddie, dinna tell them we're coming for them", and others were saying "hoi, we're winning over here too". You can please all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you'll never get an easy ride as a nationalist.

Two comments stood out though, and I've taken those points on board - it really is worth laying out some of the local circumstances which will affect the next election. Where we've won Holyrood constituencies the hard work of those SNP MSPs will stand in stark contrast to the pallid efforts of the previous incumbents (Falkirk West is excluded from that) and of the current Westminster incumbent where that incumbent is not an SNP member, so there may be some large shifts in voter preference that wouldn't be picked up on by a national swing.

That leaves some questions to be asked like is the Tricia Marwick effect in Central Fife enough to make the difference in the Westminster seat of Glenrothes, overturn a 10,664 majority and oust John MacDougall (I don't believe I've seen anything of that fella since he got elected)? Judging by the way that Fife SNP has got the bit between its teeth, the wind in its sails, the spark in its engine (and many other cliches that all mean the same thing) I think that it's a possibility. If you want to know how much of a possibility you can try dragging that out of Tricia - I don't fancy your chances of getting information out of her unless she wants to give it to you, but you're welcome to try.

Argyll and Bute - coming from fourth place, but it's in on the swingometer and this is Jim Mather's patch - seeing the Lib Dems trying to catch him will be like watching Wile E. Coyote trying to catch the Roadrunner. Falkirk - Michael Matheson will be beavering away and he's got a decent team around him and it's a case of removing the galloping Major, so that's in the SNP's favour as well.

Livingstone - the campaign's so driven that Angela Constance has decided she needs to breed new activists to take some of the strain - even though the campaign has people like Uncle Fester driving it. The opponent is the far from divine Jim, so it's all in our favour.

I have no idea what's going on in Glasgow, so someone else can tell us. Gordon is surrounded by SNP seats and has a young upstart nationalist as MSP - can't remember his name just now - so that should be fine.

The other point worth making is about the collapse of the Labour party's organisation in the aftermath of May's election. It's true that Labour had forgotten how to campaign because the outcome of the internal troubles they had in the 1980s and 1990s was the abandonment of principle in favour of the pursuit of power, but their troubles now run, perhaps, even deeper.

Losing power in Scotland for the first time in 50 years was bound to be traumatic, but the opportunities were there in the summer for Labour to regroup and refresh the party and come back stronger and with some sense of purpose, some sense of what they want to do, but that would have required some level of debate about the direction they wanted to take collectively. Instead of taking that opportunity the party that sees a clunking fist as a virtue stamped its collective feet in a collective tantrum then refused to have a leadership election, preferring instead to fling rose petals at the feet of a once favoured candidate.

That opportunity lost, Labour could still have pulled through and taken a longer path back towards significance, but that would have required surefooted leadership and a determination to develop intelligent policy and a coherent philosophy. The poor preparation, lack of underpinning research and petulant delivery in Parliament knocked any of those hopes on the head. I'm told that the resulting bad feeling has poisoned the Labour party and the organisation is in such a parlous state that some long-standing members are questioning whether there is any seat in Scotland that could be described as a safe Labour seat - even the support from full-time union officials is fading away.

There's the real possibility that Labour could be looking at losing seats all over the country to whichever party makes the best running in that seat in the campaign. Their saving grace could, bizarrely, be the collapse of their continuing coalition partners the Lib Dems, those votes garnered by the Lib Dems as a result of the free publicity they got in a governing coalition will now be going all over the place, with the possibility that Labour might pick up one or two, and the fall-off in the Lib Dem vote means that they will not be challenging in any current Labour seats and the distribution of their former supporters could keep a split in the anti-Labour vote in many seats where Labour would otherwise have fallen. The question will be whether any single party will be able to garner that vote and deliver it in seats like Edinburgh South, Lanark and Hamilton East, and Aberdeen South among others.

Unless Labour sorts out its problems in the next couple of months and re-engages with its own members it may be facing a long and unforgiving slide, shedding elected representatives and party members along the way, and ending in the kind of doldrums the Conservatives encountered in 1997. Far-fetched? There was a time when you would have doubted that it could have happened to Scotland's Tories.

In the SNP there is still a heart beating, we have maintained our historic sense of mission - a sense which I am told is palpable at our conferences but absent at others - and we continue to work to improve our country. For so long as we remember that we are in politics to change and improve our country and the lot of the people who live here and we're not here in pursuit of power for its own ends we will have an advantage over those who have forgotten why they entered politics in the first place.

Here endeth the homily